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Press Release

Florida man sentenced to 20 years in prison for producing images of child sexual abuse and traveling across the U.S. to sexually abuse a minor

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington
Traveled from Florida to southwest Washington State to sexually abuse 14-year-old

Tacoma – A 42-year-old New Port Ritchey, Florida, man was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 20 years in prison for production of child pornography and interstate travel with intent to engage in a sexual act with a minor, announced U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. Samuel Aaron Leonard was arrested July 2, 2020, in Vancouver, Washington, just outside the home of the 14‑year-old girl he had spent months enticing online for sexual abuse. Leonard communicated with the girl on a number of social media platforms and represented to the girl that he was 20 years old. At the sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle said, “To damage a life as significantly as you have is far worse than any aggravated assault…. You have to understand that your victims have a life sentence.”

“This case is a parent’s nightmare: a predator lurking online who preys on their child remotely and then travels thousands of miles to further harm a minor child,” said U.S. Attorney Gorman. “The investigation revealed that the victim in this case was not the first harmed by Mr. Leonard. This sentence is designed to protect the community from further crimes.”

According to records filed in the case, Leonard contacted the girl via a social media platform around April 1, 2020. Over the next few months, Leonard communicated with the girl on various social media sites and sent her a cell phone so that they could communicate by text and telephone. Unbeknownst to the girl, Leonard had installed tracking and surveillance software in the phone so that he could monitor her location and read her texts and emails. Leonard turned the conversations with the girl to a sexual nature and convinced her to send various sexually explicit photos.

The girl’s guardians became aware of the communication and contacted police in late June 2020. Law enforcement immediately seized both phones that the teen had been using to communicate and had an undercover officer take over the communication. Analyzing the communications and the cell phone information, the investigation revealed that Leonard had traveled from Florida to the Vancouver area via bus and was within a short bike ride of the girl’s home. When the officer, posing as the girl, revealed that the girl’s guardian had taken the phone Leonard had sent to her, Leonard said he would get her a new one. Police surveilled Leonard as he took a newly purchased phone, hid it in a package, and tossed the package over the fence to the girl’s backyard. Leonard was arrested shortly afterwards.

A search of Leonard’s hotel room revealed that he had a number of items used to restrain someone, such as ten sets of flex cuffs and two sets of metal handcuffs, as well as duct tape and electrical tape. He also had various sex toys and lubricants. In the plea agreement Leonard admits that in 2018 he traveled to Oklahoma to sexually assault a 16-year-old. Leonard’s phone contained videos of that sexual assault.

In asking for a 20-year-sentence, prosecutors wrote to the court, “Leonard has demonstrated a pattern of using minors to satiate his sexual desires. He used manipulation and hidden technology to monitor and control (the victim), violating her trust and disrupting her life. A significant sentence is required to reflect the seriousness of the offense, promote respect for the law, and provide just punishment for the offense. Only a prolonged period of incarceration will protect the public from Mr. Leonard.”

Judge Settle ordered 20 years of supervised release to follow prison, saying,

“When someone violates children like you have, there will be grave consequences, long prison terms, so we can begin to curb the terrible scourge of sexual exploitation of children from our culture.”

Leonard will be required to register as a sex offender.

The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Vancouver Police Department, and Kalama Police Department.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kristine Foerster and Sean Waite with assistance from the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.


Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Communications Director Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or

Updated April 15, 2024

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